Giles on Atheists

The next time you see someone criticize Richard Dawkins for not giving adequate treatment to the modal logic version of the ontological argument, remind him that this column, from Town Hall columnist Doug Giles, is far more representative of the depth of American religious thought:

Paul (not the lead singer of the Beatles, but the apostle Paul) states that God has made Himself known, via creation, to all men. According to the apostle, God’s revealed Himself not just to Christians and to Jews, but to every one everywhere (see Romans 1:18-21).

This means that from Jo-Jo the Brazilian monkey boy, to the Cameroon pygmies, to the whiny lesbian agnostic smoking clove cigarettes at Starbucks, to the beer swillin’ dillweeds (What’s up, dudes? I’ll see after I pen this column! Keep ‘em cold.), to the brooding British atheists, all people know God exists–even if they can’t really put a finger on some of the finer points of His person.

Yes, through what has been made, God has plastered on the souls of earth’s citizenry the general revelation that He’s present. In addition, they also know when they’re being a jack ass and when they’re being cool (more on that next week).

I know the above 411 hurts the atheists to hear, seeing that they’ve staked so much of their imago on God’s non-existence. But c’mon, you know there’s Someone “out there,” so cut the crap, shave your goatee and find some other way to pick up chicks–okay, James Dean?

Paragraph after paragraph of this! And then, when you arrive at the bottom of the page expecting some end to the madness, you realize the essay goes on for another page! Where you find things like this:

Atheists, according to Santo Pablo, have suppressed the truth because God really cramps their style. It’s hard to persistently indulge the appetites of the flesh if there is a holy God to whom you must give account. The truth is that all men, who have not bowed their knee to God and His way, hate Him and are intrinsically geared against God. (I know that’s tight, but it’s right)

What a charming fellow. His argument is that everyone knows God exists and that atheists deny it because they want to justify their hedonistic lifestyles. Gosh, maybe Dawkins should have devoted more space to that one?

Comments

  1. #1 Crudely Wrott
    May 17, 2007

    I just wish (but I don’t pray) that I had a hedonistic lifestyle to justify.

    Since I put off god and started acting like it, I’ve managed to reduce both my jealousy and vengeance quotients by one third (or more!) and have almost eliminated my desire to project a visage of victory at some else’s expense.

    “Atheists, according to Santo Pablo, have suppressed the truth because God really cramps their style.”

    Well, shucks. If I actually thought that I had a style that an invisible supernatural spook could in fact “cramp”, then I would not be an atheist.

    See, an atheist does not incorporate the consideration of said spooks, fate, predestination, revealed knowledge or a deep conviction regarding the future into the process of going about one’s daily business. Some of us have even done the experiment and kept notes. You know, like spending years praying and then spending years not.

    Observation: no interesting difference.

    Working hypothesis: It is more efficient, and of more benefit to those with whom one does interesting things, to assume that one is ultimately responsible for one’s actions than it is to assume that someone else or something else is. If nothing else, think of the time saved not having to translate and interpret!

  2. #2 Aerik
    May 17, 2007

    This is the same shit I’ve heard my uncle Cliff tell his kids on numerous occasions and thoughtful relatives like me have had to undo from their heads.

  3. #3 matthew
    May 18, 2007

    what a pathetic, insecure man; it it exactly people like this that Carl S. warned us about

  4. #4 Science Avenger
    May 18, 2007

    Paul (not the lead singer of the Beatles, but the apostle Paul)

    I love it when clueless conservative twits like Bill O and this Assertoholic try to be hip. They miss by such a wide margin it’s hard to take anything else they say seriously.

    Heads up Mr. Giles. The social pendulum is swinging our way. Didja like how your hero Falwell got shredded in the media for being the hypocritical blowhard he was? We don’t buy your bullshit. It’s as simple as that. We don’t buy the talking burning bushes, virgin birthing, coming back from the dead, talking serpents, talking donkey, making people from ribs, dying to pay yourself for a debt you put on people for what their ancestors did according to your plan, three people in one, BULLSHIT.

    It’s jack and the beanstalk to us. Don’t you get it? “Cut the crap”? Fuck you, truly. Your delusions don’t cramp anything. They are just another story to laugh at when we aren’t laughing at the Raelians or the scientologists or the latest victims of Peter Popoff. You are an accident of history sir, a member of what will be called 1,000 years from now the fading era of Christianity. See, we have an advantage over you. Atheism sticks. ur converts outnumber yours 100:1. So it’s only a matter of time. There is too much information out there, and information has always been our friend, and your enemy. You aren’t cool, you aren’t clever, and you aren’t right, and more people know it every day.

  5. #5 386sx
    May 18, 2007

    This is the same shit I’ve heard my uncle Cliff tell his kids on numerous occasions and thoughtful relatives like me have had to undo from their heads.

    Yep, believe it or not, that’s the mainstream belief. Paul said God is obvious, therefore unbelievers deserve to burn for ignoring God.

  6. #6 386sx
    May 18, 2007

    Even if God were obvious, why throw people in hell for ignoring an obvious (benevolent, hardy har har) God? Are people really this stupid?

  7. #7 The Ridger
    May 18, 2007

    This is mainstream.

    “I don’t believe in God” is like “I don’t believe in pre-marital sex” or “The Amish don’t believe in modern technology.” In both of the latter cases the thing “not believed in” is known to exist. So when an atheist says “I don’t believe in God” it must mean, according to most religious, that God is being rejected.

    “Believe in” is interpreted as “accept” or “follow”.

    “There is no God” truly does not compute.

    “I don’t believe in your god” is a much more practical answer…

  8. #8 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 18, 2007

    But c’mon, you know there’s Someone �out there,� so cut the crap, shave your goatee and find some other way to pick up chicks–okay, James Dean?

    Projection is a wonderful thing.

  9. #9 matthew
    May 18, 2007

    Science Avenger, your comment is poetry.

  10. #10 DragonScholar
    May 18, 2007

    OK. So his argument is that all know the God he believes in, but deny it. What he’s doing is trying to kick the “God” arument back to atheists to prove that they’re NOT disbelieving for personal reasons – as opposed to not believing for good reasons.

  11. #11 Ginger Yellow
    May 18, 2007

    “The truth is that all men, who have not bowed their knee to God and His way, hate Him and are intrinsically geared against God.”

    So what about all the people who have “bowed their knee” to some other god or gods? Are they just doing it out of spite too? Why don’t they just become atheists and enjoy that sweet, sweet hedonism?
    By the way, if you’re not familiar with Giles, he’s hilarious in a creepy way. Sadly, No! and World O’Crap have files on him going way back.

  12. #12 Kevin
    May 18, 2007

    “Jesus put it forcefully up fallen humanitys tailpipe”

    is he saying that jesus is GAY? or just sort of an S&M anal prober?

    “when He exposed why men reject the knowledge of God when He said, ‘Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.'”

    so everything atheists do is “evil?”

    This reads like parody but I’ll take your word for it that its not.

  13. #13 386sx
    May 18, 2007

    OK. So his argument is that all know the God he believes in, but deny it. What he’s doing is trying to kick the “God” arument back to atheists to prove that they’re NOT disbelieving for personal reasons – as opposed to not believing for good reasons.

    Which is fine, but he thinks people should burn in hell forever for that. Uh, that’s a little extreme in my book. That’s sssuming he even really believes all that nonsense. Maybe he’s really digging the juggalettes, man, with the jive talk, but the homies knows what’s up, yeah! Flower power baybeeee!! (Whoah, flashback.)

  14. #14 Simon Allaway
    May 18, 2007

    …and anyway, everyone knows the John was the lead singer of The Beatles.

  15. #15 Scruffy McSnufflepuss
    May 18, 2007

    If you guys think that Giles guy is nuts, wait until you get a load of the Brownback supporters:

    http://blogs4brownback.wordpress.com/2007/05/18/heliocentrism-is-an-atheist-doctrine/#respond

  16. #16 Robert O'Brien
    May 18, 2007

    You are an accident of history sir, a member of what will be called 1,000 years from now the fading era of Christianity. See, we have an advantage over you. Atheism sticks. ur [sic] converts outnumber yours 100:1. So it’s only a matter of time. There is too much information out there, and information has always been our friend, and your enemy. You aren’t cool, you aren’t clever, and you aren’t right, and more people know it every day.

    What else has your crystal ball revealed, Pseudoscience Avenger?

  17. #17 Kevin
    May 18, 2007

    Scruffy,

    that was a GREAT site. I have to point out that their comments section is able to REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE so you don’t have to type in your email address all the time.

  18. #18 Scruffy McSnufflepuss
    May 18, 2007

    Yeah, I go over there and lurk sometimes. Pretty funny stuff, if you don’t mind wading through some boring posts about Senator Brownback’s campaign appearances and whatnot.

  19. #19 DuWayne
    May 18, 2007

    Ginger Yellow –
    So what about all the people who have “bowed their knee” to some other god or gods? Are they just doing it out of spite too?

    What, you didn’t know that already? Sheesh, I thought everyone knew that. . .

  20. #20 Alan Kellogg
    May 19, 2007

    Well actually, if you want to get really technical about it, the Sun is not strictly the center of the Solar system.

    To put it another way, the Earth and the Sun along with all the other bodies in the Solar System orbit – or orbit a body that orbits – a common center of gravity that constantly shifts position as the various bodies that make up the population of the Solar System move. Thus our system cannot be truly heliocetric.

    Aint I particular? )

  21. #21 Science Avenger
    May 19, 2007

    Robert O’Brien said: What else has your crystal ball revealed?

    The decline in influence of the wacky religious right isn’t enough? Watch what’s going on my friend. Watch the three creationist stooges of the Republican party get thrashed. Watch more and more people spouting the nonsense Giles spouts getting called on it. The times are a-changin.

  22. #22 Greta Christina
    May 19, 2007

    Here’s what bugs me about this. (Apart from the obvious no-thought, “if I say it enough times that somehow constitutes an argument” stupidity, of course…)

    Does he really think that atheism is easy?

    I would love to believe in a strong, loving, benevolent Sky-Daddy who knows the answer to everything and will explain it all when I die. I would love to believe that I’m going to live forever, and that the people I love will all live forever, and I’ll see them all again someday. I would love to believe that it doesn’t matter that either Ingrid or I is going to die first, because we’ll see each other in Heaven someday; I would love to not have to think that when one of us does die, we will never, ever, ever see each other again. (Okay, I’m starting to cry now…)

    When I finally gave up believing in the immortal soul, it sucked. It was painful and traumatic. I got through it and to the other side eventually, but it was a bad few months during which I suffered a reasonably serious depression.

    To top that all off, I have to accept that my moral decisions are mine, and take full responsibility for them. I don’t get to pawn it off on the Sky Daddy and his magic book. The full weight of my decisions is on my shoulders.

    And to top that off, we get to be scorned and hated by ignorant bigots.

    I’m not trying to be whiny or “poor us.” I’m thrilled and proud to be an atheist, and it definitely has its compensations. But anyone who thinks that atheism is the easy way out — especially atheism in America — is worse than an idiot.

  23. #23 Greta Christina
    May 19, 2007

    Oh, my dog. Scruffy, that is the both the funniest and the scariest thing I’ve read all week. It took me two-thirds of the way through to realize that he was serious. My favorite line: “…the folly of embracing a soulless, atheistic pseudoscience like Heliocentrism.”

  24. #24 Scruffy McSnufflepuss
    May 19, 2007

    “Well actually, if you want to get really technical about it, the Sun is not strictly the center of the Solar system.

    To put it another way, the Earth and the Sun along with all the other bodies in the Solar System orbit – or orbit a body that orbits – a common center of gravity that constantly shifts position as the various bodies that make up the population of the Solar System move. Thus our system cannot be truly heliocetric.”

    You should go over there and tell the Brownback people that. They’ll probably love you for it.

    ‘Oh, my dog. Scruffy, that is the both the funniest and the scariest thing I’ve read all week. It took me two-thirds of the way through to realize that he was serious. My favorite line: “…the folly of embracing a soulless, atheistic pseudoscience like Heliocentrism.”‘

    The comments are nutty, too. Evidently, a decent chunk of conservatives DO believe in Heliocentrism, and they raise a delightful donnybrook about the issue.

  25. #25 Ick of the East
    May 19, 2007

    WFT? James Dean didn’t have a goatee.

    And I’ll match my atheist morality against Jerry “How Many Chins Would Jesus Have?” Falwell, Pat “Blood Diamonds” Robertson, Ralph “Casino” Reed, and Ted “Pole-Smoking Meth-Head” Haggard any day.

  26. #26 Dave M
    May 19, 2007

    Scruffy, Greta: I looked at the Brownback link (thank you) and I’m still not quite convinced it’s not a parody. It’s a tough call. If it is a parody, he’s gone all out.

  27. #27 Scruffy McSnufflepuss
    May 19, 2007

    It’s a tough call. But I’ve been lurking there for a while now, and they haven’t slipped yet. If they’re spoofs, they’re pretty well-disciplined.

  28. #28 J. J. Ramsey
    May 19, 2007

    “The next time you see someone criticize Richard Dawkins for not giving adequate treatment to the modal logic version of the ontological argument, remind him that this column, from Town Hall columnist Doug Giles, is far more representative of the depth of American religious thought”

    Wait a minute …

    Critic of Dawkins: Dawkins tackles ontological arguments but doesn’t back up his contempt with strong argument, and fails to even try to account for variations in the ontological arguments.

    Defender of Dawkins: But here’s this really boneheaded attack on atheists by Doug Giles.

    Critic: What does this have anything to do with Dawkins’ mediocre handling of a topic that he himself chose?

  29. #29 Tyler DiPietro
    May 19, 2007

    J.J. Ramsey has an excellent point. It is unfair to defend Dawkins with the claim that the numerical majority of his detractors are more boneheaded than he is. We should deal with the arguments of his critics on their merits and preferentially treat the more meritorious critics with rebuttals. However, I have no inclination to defend Dawkins treatment of the ontological “argument”, since I don’t regard it so much as an argument but rather a series of vaguely different looking statements used to establish what it assumes at the outset.

  30. #30 Greta Christina
    May 21, 2007

    I think you’re missing the point, J.J. The point is that Dawkins is not primarily criticizing the more refined and intellectual versions of Christian belief. Dawkins does address those — perfectly adequately, I thought — but he mostly doesn’t care very much about them. He is primarily criticizing the more commonly-held varieties of Christian belief.

    And Jason’s point (I think — Jason, correct me if I’m wrong) is is that Dawkins is right — that this piece of “if I say it enough times that somehow constitutes an argument” nitwittery by Giles is much more representative of mainstream Christianity than some theological seminarian discussing the modal logic version of the ontological argument.

  31. #31 J. J. Ramsey
    May 21, 2007

    “And Jason’s point (I think — Jason, correct me if I’m wrong) is is that Dawkins is right — that this piece of ‘if I say it enough times that somehow constitutes an argument’ nitwittery by Giles is much more representative of mainstream Christianity than some theological seminarian discussing the modal logic version of the ontological argument.”

    But Jason is using the relative popularity of Giles’ nitwittery as a non sequitur to distract from criticisms that Dawkins’ treatment of topics that Dawkins himself chose to discuss is mediocre. That’s an argument by non sequitur, and Jason should know better.

  32. #32 Matthew L.
    May 22, 2007

    Alan Kellogg said “To put it another way, the Earth and the Sun along with all the other bodies in the Solar System orbit – or orbit a body that orbits – a common center of gravity that constantly shifts position as the various bodies that make up the population of the Solar System move. Thus our system cannot be truly heliocetric.”

    Actually, I would say that doesn’t necessarily rule out heliocentrism, rather it rules out what you might call heliocentercentrism, since that point could still be inside the sun (as the center of the Earth-Moon system is inside the Earth).

    As it happens though, I believe the barycenter that would be between the Sun and Jupiter is outside (but close to) the Sun, so it probably is the case that the Sun isn’t at the center of the system.

    Let’s hear it for intentionally excessive nitpicking!

  33. #33 Johan Richter
    May 22, 2007

    You know, I would actually be interested to hear your take on the modal logic argument for god. I personally haven’t quite understood it.

  34. #34 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 22, 2007

    J.J.-

    First of all, Dawkins didn’t choose to address the modal logic version of the ontological argument. That’s the whole point, remember? Dawkins chose to address briefly the classical ontological argument, explain the major flaws in it, and refer people to Mackie’s book for a more detailed treatment of the subject. That seems like a perfectly sound approach for the sort of book he was writing.

    The point I was making with my opening to this post was simply that people who criticize Dawkins for not addressing some bit of theological esoterica are just being silly. It is not a weakness in Dawkins’ book that he doesn’t address things like the modal logic version of the ontological argument, since such arguments have zero relevance to religious practice outside the most rarefied circles of academic theology. Dawkins was addressing himself to religion as it is actually practiced. And Giles is far more representative of that school of thought than the theologians.

    Personally I think a lot of the critics are more interested in showing off some of the trivia they have learned than they are in making serious points about Dawkins’ book.

  35. #35 J. J. Ramsey
    May 22, 2007

    “It is not a weakness in Dawkins’ book that he doesn’t address things like the modal logic version of the ontological argument, since such arguments have zero relevance to religious practice outside the most rarefied circles of academic theology.”

    And the ontological argument does have relevance to popular religion? If Dawkins really meant to, as you put it, “addressing himself to religion as it is actually practiced” by the likes of average Joes and Janes, he wouldn’t have bothered with the ontological argument at all. Once he decided to treat the ontological argument, he should have done it properly. One paragraph of a kinda-sorta rebuttal embedded in six pages of sarcasm, witty anecdotes, and filler is not even close to a proper treatment, not even a brief proper treatment. And nothing Giles does excuses that.

  36. #36 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 22, 2007

    J.J. Ramsey-

    He was writing a chapter addressing arguments for the existence of God, and the ontological argument is an especially famous one. So he had to say something about it. But you’re right that it’s far removed from normal religious practice, which is why he didn’t belabor it. As I noted, he summarized the argument, exposed its major flaws, and referred people to a more scholarly treatment of the subject for further details. This idea you’re promoting that somehow you either have to an all out scholarly assault on the subject or not address it at all is, I’m sorry, deeply silly.

    If you are not happy with his treatment of the subject, that is your business. You can take it up with Dawkins. The point of this post however was simply that (a) Dawkins’ critics need to start paying more attention to the big picture and (b) Giles is an idiot.

  37. #37 MartinM
    May 23, 2007

    And the ontological argument does have relevance to popular religion?

    But you’re right that it’s far removed from normal religious practice

    Actually, I think you’re both wrong on that point. I’ve spent several years debating religion online, and it comes up quite regularly. And it’s not just the more ‘sophisticated,’ moderate believers who bring it up. It’s fairly common in fundamentalist circles too.

    That’s not overly surprising. On one hand, even the classical ontological argument may be complicated and esoteric. On the other hand, it can be stated in three sentences, none of which contain any particularly big words. Comprehension is not a prerequisite for belief.

  38. #38 J. J. Ramsey
    May 23, 2007

    “As I noted, he summarized the argument,”

    He summarized one form of it, and gave no indication that there were even variations.

    “exposed its major flaws,”

    Not really. What he wrote was rather anemic in substance. As I said before, it was one “paragraph of a kinda-sorta rebuttal embedded in six pages of sarcasm, witty anecdotes, and filler.” Good grief, he mentioned Kant but didn’t even explain what “existence is not a predicate” means.

    “and referred people to a more scholarly treatment of the subject for further details.”

    Which is one thing he did right.

    “This idea … that somehow you either have to an all out scholarly assault on the subject or not address it at all is …”

    … a strawman. Come on, Jason, you know better than that.

    Dawkins had six pages to work with. In that space, he could have

    1) mentioned that Anselm gave two variants of the ontological argument,
    2) discussed briefly the flaws in these forms,
    3) noted that other variants of the ontological argument share the flaws of one or the other of Anselm’s arguments,
    4) mentioned a couple examples of how these variant forms share these flaws, and
    5) then pointed to a more in-depth treatment.

    That’s not an “all out scholarly assault,” but it’s a much better thumbnail sketch than what Dawkins provided.

  39. #39 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 23, 2007

    J.J. Ramsey-

    Okay! So you didn’t like Dawkins treatment of the ontological argument. I get it. Enough already!

  40. #40 Grodge
    May 27, 2007

    Giles is a pinhead, and obviously a poorly informed theist. He hasn’t heard of the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle or the great nontheistic traditions which grew up befoer or contemporaneously with monotheism.

    He needs to get his money back from his grossly inadequate college education.

  41. #41 chris
    June 11, 2007

    He needs to get his money back from his grossly inadequate college education.

    Who wants to bet he went to Liberty? In which case, he got what he paid for, so no refund.

  42. #42 CF
    November 10, 2011

    Doug has many “hip” comments in his articles, that though he is more often on the right side of an issue, he shows complete lack and disdain for the Kingship of Christ, reducing everything to slang, good time writing.Typical one finds in the dessicated and barren landscape of most evangelicals of today…Protestantism in its nature devolves, he is a clear indicator…of note, too, he has no Theological degree, nor indcation of any training other then taking some sort of Theology classes. His daughter has been caught falsify records and video (ok, ACORN is terrible, true) and even in non “undercover” pics and videos, dress in way too tight clothes, immodest….

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